Thursday December 22, 2005
'I say, how queer!" said George, showing Dick the story she had just read in the Guardian. "Queer altogether!" said Dick when he had read the article and finished his mouthful of fresh home-cured bacon and egg which the hens had laid that morning. "What does it say?" said Anne, who was hand-feeding her older brother Julian with fresh lettuce hearts and delicious freshly baked bread that she had made at four o'clock that morning as girls should. "Yes, tell us," said Julian. "Because I am the leader of the group and Anne can't read because her female eyes are too weak."
"It says the Famous Five are still the most popular children's books ever," said George, wolfing down a slice of delicious fruit cake they had bought from the local paedophile - sorry, red-cheeked farmer and his wife - that morning. "Gosh," said Anne. "Even with the fearful fuss there has been about Narnia recently?"
"The Pevensey children got second place," said Dick eagerly. "And serve them jolly well right for prancing about with talking beavers in amalgamated mythical hinterlands instead of staying firmly within the stockbroker belt."
"I call that pretty ripping," said Julian as Anne brushed the crumbs from his pullover and flagellated herself with a willow branch for being a girl. "It just goes to show that you will never go broke underestimating the sophistication of a pre-adolescent readership."
"What do you mean, Ju?" said George, feeding Timmy the dog scraps of delicious deliciousness that they had bought from the village shop that sold only fresh delicious things.
"I mean, old thing, give them 200 pages of easily identifiable heroes and villains, a set of two-dimensional protagonists getting into a series of relatively unthreatening and infinitely resolvable scrapes, scatter the thing with a few basic adjectives and plenty of descriptions of food and they will lap it up for 50 years or more."
"Well-paced narrative has distracted them from gaping plot holes and an unprecedented lack of character development," agreed George, pouring herself a glass of fresh milk that Anne had extracted from a passing Friesian at five o'clock that morning. "But I think our own embodiment of timeless archetypes has something to do with it."
"I don't understand, George," said Anne when she got back from filling the empty lemonade and ginger beer bottles full of fresh water from the underground spring 10 miles away, buying delicious ices at the village shop and dressing the burns she suffered while cooking breakfast for five on an oil stove.
"We're all awfully good at appealing to eternal childish desires for continuity, conformity," explained George. "Julian's awfully alpha male, someone for the boys to aspire to and Dick's the lesser patriarch but his authority is still reassuringly unchallenged because of the mere fact of his gender. You, Anne, as subservient helpmeet, shore up the status quo while I, with my tomboyish attitude gradually subdued over the course of the series, acknowledge the tensions inherent in the patriarchal structure while always recognising the need for their repression for the greater social good. Together, we are gathered gratefully to the unrepentantly reactionary heart of every child."
"I say, isn't that ripping!" said Dick.
"Jolly, awfully jolly good!" said Julian.
"Top hole!" cried George.
"I am so fucked," said Anne.